There's been plenty of time to digest Thursday night's loss to Northwestern and in that time I've tried to find a reason for hope. A reason to think that this team will get its shit together and start playing good basketball again. Maybe not top ten basketball, but good enough to at least compete in conference play and work its way into the tournament at the end of the season.
I haven't found one.
In many ways Thursday night's loss mirrored the football team's loss to Indiana October. At that point in the football season it as obvious that the Illini weren't very good, but their first three losses in Big Ten play came to Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan, two of those losses on the road. A trip to a bowl game was a pipe dream already, but surely there were still going to be a few wins on the schedule to enjoy and a touch of optimism heading into the winter.
But then the Illini lost to Indiana at home by two touchdowns and you just knew. There weren't going to be any more wins this year.
I'm back in that place again when it comes to this basketball team. Don't get me wrong, the Illini will win another game before this season is over. In fact, they'll probably -- hopefully? -- win on Tuesday against Nebraska, but it won't change anything. One win over the Cornhuskers won't change or fix the myriad of problems this team has. The same problems it had even when it was winning.
A win over Nebraska won't change our remaining schedule.
The flaws this team has are just too noticeable. The Illini are entirely too reliable on the three in order to score points on offense, and the defense has not been good all season. The Big Ten Geeks did a good job of going over our defensive efficiencies, but in a nutshell it comes down to our inability to rebound.
I agree with Josh Reed that relying on turnovers defensively isn't easy to do and succeed in the Big Ten, but the biggest problem is rebounding. Rebounding well can mask other defensive blemishes, and this team just isn't built to rebound.
Really, this team isn't built to do anything John Groce wants it to do. At least, not consistently.
And that's why I don't have much hope about the rest of the year. John Groce's system may yet work here in Champaign and in the Big Ten, but it's not going to this season.
All we can hope for at this point is moments.
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